Tuesday, February 25, 2020

2020 Florida Trip

We were in Florida for 4.5 days last week and had a really great time! Unfortunately the weather wasn't great for part of the trip but we knew we were running the risk of cooler weather since we were going so early in the season. But we got 1.5 days of nice weather and our last afternoon was decent so we'll call it good enough! Here's a photo-heavy recap of the trip!


My parents drove down to our place on Tuesday night so Paul got to see Papa and Nana when he woke up on Wednesday morning. He has finally gotten over his stranger danger and was happy to sit in both of their laps. At one point he crawled onto the stool next to my dad, pushed a chatbook over to him and said "up please" because he wanted to sit in Papa's lap and look through pictures of himself. #babynarcissist

We had a 10 am flight which worked out super well. Paul was very happy on the plane. Phil downloaded some episodes of Little Baby Bum from Netflix. He happily watched them on his headphones and ate lots and lots of snacks. He charmed the 85+ year old woman that sat next to us and said hello to every flight attendant that walked by.

Waiting to board the plane. We were happy to say goodbye to static electricity!
We flew into Tampa and stayed in a condo in an area on the coast called "Indian Shores." We splurged and got a 3 bedroom condo so Paul could have his own room. He tends to cry out in his sleep and is a light sleeper at times so it's best for him to have his own room, if possible.

We got a late lunch/early take-out dinner (linner?) when we got to our condo. My mom and I went grocery shopping and the boys went for a walk on the beach. We thoroughly enjoyed the sunset from our patio on that first night!

Reading books with Nana before bedtime
It was so beautiful that night that we played cards on the patio after Paul went to bed! We played cards every night with my parents which was so fun!


We woke up to beautiful weather on Thursday. It was overcast in the morning but warm/humid. The humidity felt so good on our dry skin! This was the only morning we were able to eat breakfast and drink coffee on the patio - the other mornings were way too cold unfortunately, even for us Minnesotans/North Dakotans.

It's like Paul woke up on Thursday morning and aged overnight. He looked like such a little boy in this summer outfit!

We headed out for a family walk on the beach. Paul loved running up and down the beach and exploring things that had washed up onto the shore.

He was truly living his best life and could not have been happier! He kept saying "walk beach" or "walka walka" over the course of the weekend.

We made sandwiches for lunch and I read while Paul napped. Phil and my dad swam in the ocean - the weather was nice but the ocean felt so cold so my mom and I passed on the ocean swim! After Paul's nap, we hit up the pool. We have quite the little fish on our hands. He loves to sit on the side of the pool and jump into my hands but quickly changed to standing and jumping into my hands!

He also loved standing in the shallow end and splashing around.

After Paul Phil and I were worn out from swimming, we got cleaned up and had a little happy hour on our patio before heading to dinner. Paul enjoyed snacks while the adults had wine/beer and chips!

We got to the restaurant around 5:50 but there was already an hour+ wait so my parents had a drink in the bar while we went exploring with Paul in the stroller. We found a park close by (gotta love google maps!) and killed some time there.

The adults enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner while the toddler ate mac and cheese. If you'd like to know who has the best mac and cheese in the area, just ask Paul. He literally ate mac and cheese for every lunch and dinner in FL. We gave him about a pouch/meal so he'd get some veggies/fruit but decided to not try to get him to eat outside his comfort zone. I never thought I'd have such a picky eater on my hands since Phil and I are both open-minded eaters. But you can't make Paul do anything! Hopefully he eats better when he's a bit older.

Waiting for his mac and cheese! The lit-up palm trees were so pretty!


We woke up to COLD, windy weather on Friday. It felt like it was in the 30s with the wind off the water. We went for a brief walk on the beach to burn off some energy. Paul enjoyed it until we turned around and the wind was in our face!

There was no way we could spend much time outside that day, so we went to a local wildlife learning center that mroning. They had lots of alligators and other things like turtles, fish, snakes, and even a sloth (random, right?). Paul had fun walking around and checking out all the animals.

We laid low for the rest of the day and grilled burgers for dinner that night.


Saturday was another cool day with temps in the 40s in the morning. Paul slept for 12+ hours and woke up at 7:30 which was a glorious start to the day! We had a quiet morning in the condo. I got picked up for lunch by blogger friend Stephany! She lives in the area and was kind enough to drive to me and pick me up for lunch! I hate driving in unfamiliar areas - especially in a big minivan (I'm a small car kind of girl!) so I really appreciated her driving to me. We went to a pizza place close to our house that had really good GF pizza. It was really fun to catch up and talk about books (Stephany is an avid reader and actually reads more books/year than I do!), cats (she has 2), careers, family, and life!

The weather had warmed up to the 60s by the time Paul woke up from his nap so we went swimming together one more time in the (heated) pool while my parents went to church. Then we ordered take out from Grubhub - which worked well for everyone except Phil as they didn't bring his meal. We've used places like grubhub or postmates many times in the past and have never had an issue with them but Saturday night was really bad. They were not very helpful initially but once it was clear that they had made the mistake they were a bit more helpful. But not helpful enough to bring him is meal - they said we would have had to start a new order to get his meal. So Phil walked down the road to a take-out place. Womp womp.

We enjoyed one last sunset, played one more game of cards (I won!) and were all in bed by 9:30.


We had a lazy start to the day as Paul once again slept in until around 7:30. It felt amazing to get back-to-back nights of 8 hours of sleep! That never happens at home! We had breakfast, packed up and headed out. My parents were heading to Venice, FL for a couple of days to see my mom's siblings that live or winter there so they dropped us off at the airport.

This time our flight was at 12. I thought it would work out well as that is around Paul's nap time but he didn't nap until the final hour of the flight and then he woke up after about 30 minutes and did not know where he was. He has trouble coming out of a deep sleep so was NOT HAPPY and let out a series of ear-piercing screams for the next 5-10 minutes. Oof. I felt so bad and apologized to our seat mate and the people behind us. Luckily that was short lived and he was back to saying 'hello' to our seat mate within 10-20 minutes. Traveling with toddlers is rough sometimes!! I'm just glad he was content for most of the flight as there were other kids around us that screamed A LOT. I know it's really tough to be on a plane with kids when you don't have children - but just keep in mind how little control parents have over young kids and imagine how bad the parents are feeling when their kids are screaming. Eeks. That concludes my PSA on traveling with kids. ;)

Watching Baby Bum on the plane.
We landed around 2:30 on Sunday afternoon and spent the rest of the day getting groceries, doing laundry, and getting ready for the week. I managed to make chili for dinner. It was nice to have a home cooked meal and have something to bring to work for lunches! I really dislike coming back from vacations on Sunday but it was our only option since the condos we were looking at weren't available Tuesday-Saturday. But we made it work! After spending 4+ days with my parents, Paul definitely misses Papa and Nana. He keeps saying "Papa Nana Flolala." (pronounces Florida Flolala).

Traveling with a toddler is a lot of work between the plane travel and schlepping allllll the things along - but it's worth the effort to have a change of scenery!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Currently February

Here are at the half-way point of one of my least favorite months of the year. Hooray! This winter hasn't been that bad all in all but even a good winter can feel long when it starts in November and can last until April! But the end of daylight savings is just around the corner so we'll have more evening daylight soon which will really help! Here's what is currently going on in my world!

Reading: Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett which is a memoir about a friendship she formed with a fellow writer when they attended the Iowa writer's workshop. This is my 3rd Patchett book of the year so will count towards the 'read 3 books by the same author' category of my reading challenge. I think I might become a Patchett completist as her work is so so good!

Loving: this winter hat that I bought Paul upon the suggestion of our daycare. He HATES winter hats so so much and will pull them off. So when our daycare suggested this style of hat, I decided to give it a try. It's been the best winter purchase. It's really warm and gives him more coverage than other hats we've tried. Check out the comparison below! The other hat is fine when it's milder outside but it's rarely mild here during the winter so I am glad we have a super warm hat that he can't pull off!

Feeling: proud of how well Paul has done with swimming lessons. We've been going for most of the last year and he has become way more comfortable with the weather. He loves to sit on the side of the pool and jump into my hangs and will also stand on the lily pad (while holding onto my hand and the teacher's hand) and jump into the water. My parents have a lake home so being comfortable with the water is super important!

Anticipating: our trip to Florida this week! I feel like I've been anticipating this trip for sooo long! The weather looks like it will be pretty good while we are down there. It looks like it might be cooler (60s) and windy on Friday but there is an aquarium fairly close by that we could hit up if we need something to do. Paul loves animals so I think he'd love the aquarium! I'm hoping the flights to/from FL go well. We ended up buying toddler-sized headphones for Paul so he could watch some shows during the flight. We practiced using them on Sunday and he loved them!

Struggling: with my RA. I've had a string of flares this winter and have been on prednisone more than I would like. I don't know if it's the swing in temperatures or what is going on but I've had flare after flare and have to take a break from doing HIIT-style workouts while my joints heal.

Grateful: for the bonus I'll receive at the end of the month. It's all going towards the mortgage, which isn't exactly "fun" but it will feel good to have our mortgage paid off soon!

Working: on selecting a paint color for the walls of our main and upper level. I bought 3 different gray/greige color samples on Friday and painted 12+ different areas that get different levels of light exposure of our main and upper levels. Since we are painting such a huge area, I'm leaning toward the lightest color (the color on the bottom in the vertical stack/the color that is furthest to the right in the horizontal stack). I've been told that gray is a challenging color as it can take on purple or blue hues in different light exposures so that's why I'm leaning toward the lightest color as it seems to have the least amount of under tones and is the most neutral of the 3. Next I need to decide on a color for our master bedroom and bathroom. We won't paint until May or June when we can open up the windows to ventilate the space so I have a lot of time to stew over this decision!

Listening: to Taylor Swift's newest album. I watched her Netflix documentary "Miss Americana" over the weekend and decided to use an Apple gift card I won in a Christmas Eve dice game to purchase her album. I have been a big Taylor Swift fan for a long time but stopped listening to music when I got into podcasts several years ago. But seeing her song-writing process inspired me to buy it. It's a fun album!

Watching: The Americans on Amazon Prime. We are on season 5 of 6. It took a season for us to get into the show but then we were hooked. I don't LOVE season 5 but it's still a really good show. I'm also watching "This is Us" on Hulu when Phil isn't around (he doesn't care for the show and finds it overly dramatic).

Wishing: for an early spring! Please please please! When it's too cold to go outside with a toddler, it can make for the longest weekends!!

Bonus pics!

Ok, he doesn't always love wearing his hat. He's saying "no quiere" in this photo which is how he says "no want" in Spanish

I saw Brandi Carlile last week and she was AMAZING!! 

Yawn! We had a string of early wake-ups and short naps earlier this month.
I've been playing the piano more now that it's in our living room (it was tucked away in our office in our last house). Paul will sometimes sit on my lap while I play but he was afraid to touch the keys - until recently! Now he likes to crawl up on the bench and play. I'm so glad he'll grow up in a house with a piano!

What are you reading, anticipating, and grateful for?

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Looking Forward

It's been quite awhile since I did a looking forward post. We are at that point of winter where it feels like it's endless so I need to focus on the good things ahead to distract myself from the cold (-31F windchill this am - yay) and piles of snow around.

Tonight I am looking forward to seeing Brandi Carlile! Brandi Carlile is hands down my favorite artist. I've been a fan since the early-2000s when she released her first album. Her career has taken off big-time since then as she won 3 Grammys last year! Tonight's concert is a small, 1800-person venue that just opened this week. I'm going with my good friend Amber and it's going to be the best Galentine's Day ever!

This weekend I'm looking forward to going on a date with Phil! We haven't gone out for dinner sans Paul since Memorial Day weekend. Eeks. That is a long drought of dates but it's really hard to justify spending money on a sitter when Paul will sleep for most of the date. We are going to an amazing restaurant 2 blocks from our house. It features cuisine from the Oaxaca (pronounced "wah-hah-kuh") region of Mexico so everything in naturally GF since they don't use wheat in that region. I went here last summer with a good friend and had the most delicous meal. Our dinner reservation is at 5:30 so it's going to be an early dinner but oh well. The alternative was 8:30 and that is way too late for me! I think we'll probably tag on a drink at another place after dinner so we are home past bedtime!

This month I'm looking forward to going to Florida with my parents! We leave next Wednesday. Our winter hasn't been terrible this year, but it's dark and cold so a winter getaway is kind of a must for us. We are spending 4 nights in the Tampa region in a condo on the beach - I can't wait to eat breakfast on the patio while listening to the waves crash into the shore. #bliss

This spring I'm looking forward to getting the interior of our home painted. The walls have so many huge holes in them from nails and other hardware and the paint just looks... not great. In the past I've rushed to get paint up on the wall but this time around we are going to buy some paint samples and put them in various areas that get different types of lights to see how they look. That way we will know what to expect when the paint goes up on the wall. It's never quite what it looks like on the paint chips!

This summer I'm looking forward to hopefully going on our first mini-trip without Paul. Phil and I have each spent nights away from Paul due to work travel, but we've never been away together. Initially I was thinking we would go to Colorado to go hiking, but I don't feel ready to be a flight away from Paul. So instead we are hoping to go to a resort in northern Minnesota for a couple of nights while my parents watch Paul at the lake. We haven't booked it yet, but the fact that my mom hired a replacement for her gives me confidence that she'll be able to take a few days off during the week to watch Paul. I want to go away during the work week as I only see Paul for about 2.5-3 hours on week days so missing a couple of week days with him isn't a big deal. I don't think I'm ready to go away for an entire weekend yet as then I'd miss out on a much larger chunk of time.

And that's as far ahead as I am thinking at this point! What are you looking forward to?

Friday, February 7, 2020

Finance Friday: What I Learned from Selling 2 Homes

It's been a little over 3 months since we bought our new house and almost 2 months since we sold our previous home. That was a chaotic time but I feel like the dust has settled. I've been involved in 2 purchases (the purchase of my condo and this latest purchase) and 2 sales (the sale of my condo and sale of our recent home which Phil bought on his own before we were married) so I feel like I have a decent handle on the buying and selling process and have learned a lot. My finance posts tend to go over well, so I thought I would share what I've learned in the process. I feel like people talk about the purchase process quite a bit, but there's very little discussion of selling a home so I thought I'd focus on that.

Selling a home 

There is really just one big take away from selling a home - IT IS EXPENSIVE. We talk about fee compression in my industry (financial services) but holy smokes, there is no fee compression happening in real estate. When I was a mortgage underwriter in my 20s, we assumed that people would pay about 10% in closing/transaction costs when selling their home. It turns out this is pretty accurate, especially if you have to contribute towards your buyer's closing costs. 8% would probably be the lower bound of transaction costs, unless you don't use a realtor - which I honestly wouldn't recommend unless you are very comfortable with real estate transactions and don't mind negotiating directly with buyers. The realtor commissions (you pay for the buyer's realtor, too) are where the bulk of the closing costs come from, but there are other title-related expenses and, like I mentioned, potentially seller-paid closing costs. Our closing costs for our most recent sale were over $30,000 so it is a significant amount of money!!

So bottom line, you want to sell as few homes in your lifetime as possible (in my opinion) because to 'break even' you need your house to appreciate by 10% - otherwise you are going to lose money.

Our most recent sale worked out well for us because Phil bought at a good time and sold at a time when first time home buyer homes had appreciated quite a bit. His house had appreciated by 38% in 5.5 years which is NOT normal! For example, the home we purchased this fall appreciated 6% in the 4 years since the owners purchased it. They certainly did NOT make money on the sale (plus we were told they put over $15k into the stamped concrete patio/steps in the back yard).

I've been on the losing side of a purchase before as I bought a condo in 2005 and sold it for 15% less than I paid for it ~13 years later in 2018 (I bought close to the market peak). While I didn't have to bring money to the closing table since I had paid down my mortgage quite a bit over 13 years, I certainly did not 'make money' or break even on that purchase. I was stuck owning that condo for far longer than I would have liked as I couldn't afford to sell it since I would have had to bring quite a bit of money to the closing table. Luckily I was able to rent it out, but that wasn't ideal either.

Knowing selling a home is expensive, does buying make sense for you?

Here are a couple of things worth considering when buying a home:

- How your mortgage/taxes/insurance (referred to at PITI by mortgage lenders) plus other expenses like HOA dues compare to your rent payment? If the PITI and other expenses is significantly lower than your rent, buying a home might be the right decision, even if you technically lose money on the sale down the road.

- How long will you be in the home? If you plan to be there for a long time, then you don't really need to think about the sale of the home down the road. I think the best reason to own a home is that eventually you won't have a mortgage payment if you stay there for a long time. So your monthly housing expenses will be much lower eventually. You'll always have to pay for insurance and taxes but that should be much lower than a rent payment. So the longer you plan to stay in the home, the less future value of the home matters. In our case, we expect to be in this home for 20+ years. We will keep the value of the home in mind as we make changes/improvements but we are less concerned with the future value of the home since we won't don't anticipate selling for a very long time.


By writing this post, I'm not trying to scare anyone away from purchasing a home. I just think there is so little discussion about the economics of buying and selling a home. I felt such pressure to buy a home in my 20s which is why I bought one at age 24 and rushed into the purchase since my lease was expiring. So I wanted to provide a counter argument to the assumption that everyone should buy a home!

Do you own or rent a home? Have you sold a home before?

Monday, February 3, 2020

What We Read in January

January was a strong reading month as I finished 9 books! Similar to previous months, here are my hits and misses! I draw a fairly arbitrary line in terms of what gets included in hits. For example, I sometimes give a book 4 stars but don't include it in my hits. So I guess hits are books that really really resonated with me!

- The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall - This was a debut novel but I never would have guessed it! The writing was really beautiful, but it wasn't beautiful for the sake of being beautiful. She beautifully explained challenging things we face in life, from challenges in a relationship to unanswered prayers. She also delves into the question of whether 2 people can have completely different opinions about a core belief - in this case, the belief in God.

- Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson - This is a novel about 3 West Point grads. They were sophomores when 9/11 happened so their futures were greatly impacted by that tragic day as it meant they were surely going to serve during a time of war. The novel was written by the daughter of a West Point professor so she had experienced the culture first hand. She covers topics like the treatment of women in the military, female friendships, and the sacrifices that the men and women in the military make each day.

- The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett - I was surprised how much I enjoyed Patchett's debut novel. She was clearly a talented writer right from the start! This novel was about a home for unwed mothers in the south. The main character comes to the home to deliver her baby - except she isn't unwed. The novel unfolds from there.

- The Convenience Store Woman - I decided to read this to fulfill the "Books in Translation" category of the reading challenge I'm working on. This was recommended by Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy. Her recommendations are usually spot on for me, but this was a miss. It was just too out there for me!

Paul's Reads:

Oh boy, Paul's love of reading is alive and well. This is the stack of books he brought me one Saturday morning. We haven't put Christmas and Halloween books away as there are a couple that he really really loves. For a while he was getting really frustrated that he couldn't carry a stack of like 5 books over to me so we had to teach him to bring me one at a time and make a pile by mama. Ha.

He really loves the "10 Little Lady Bugs" book that he's reading with daddy below and a "Polar Bear Polar Bear What Do You Hear" book (at the bottom of the photo below). It has buttons for different animal sounds. He likes to use that book to play the sounds of animals we encounter in other books. It's pretty cute.

My parents got him a book with animal sounds, too, but he is TERRIFIED of the cow mooing. And I mean terrified. He screams and practically shakes with fear! So we put that book away for awhile. Meanwhile, he enjoys a different book with dinosaur sounds which I find pretty scary. Toddlers are strange!

What have you been reading lately?